It's the Ritz. They've set their own standard from the time they first opened their doors in Clayton, and long before that at their earlier outposts. (Some may remember Pollack's First Law: Restaurants set their own standards by the way they price themselves. It's just as true with hotels.) So when they discontinued their opulent Sunday brunch and instead began offering a breakfast buffet and an a la carte menu instead, seven days a week, my ears perked up. Sundays, they run it through 2 p.m., a fine idea.
Thus, they've 86'd the sushi, the roast beef and such. Smoked salmon is on the a la carte menu with a bagel and the usual hangers-on. Nobody talked about mimosas but surely they'd be available, and - after all, this is the Ritz, for crying out loud - we can't imagine they wouldn't serve you oysters if they were in stock but they'd be priced separately. What's left, then?
It's still in the sunny Restaurant, a room made for daylight eating if ever there were one. An omelet station, which also does waffles to order, awaits. Only one of the buffet choices are surprising; these are, to look at them, traditional American breakfast dishes. Two kinds of sausages, pork and chicken-apple, both in links, and both fat and juicy, fine examples of their kind. Thick bacon, a little peppery, at a point between crisp and limp. Breakfast potatoes (as much as I loathe the phrase - I know what time of day it is and that they're spuds, but what have you done to them?), here, chunks of red potato deepfried and seasoned with crunchy bits and a nice round of garlic. Scrambled eggs, and in an impressive turn of events, the dish containing them, still more than half full, was changed out for a fresh, full one while I watched.
Pancakes were also in a chafing dish and a lovely array of toppings beyond maple syrup were arranged alluringly, conserves and preserves of interesting fruit flavors, a bananas Foster cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and sprinkles of various kinds. Biscuits and gravy, not a dish I'd expect to see at a Ritz-Carlton, but a nice touch. Oatmeal with several toppings, including two kinds of milk and berries the size of a linebacker's thumb. All pretty routine, right? But then there were eggs Benedict. The eggs were individually and properly poached, and the arrangement in the pan was such that not one of them was over the hot spot in the middle that always guarantees a rock-hard English muffin. The hollandaise showed the classic French style, rich (of course) and buttery.
Breads and pastries fell woefully short of what one expects at the Ritz. Georgeous, of course, but the mini-croissants and pan au chocolat were beyond crisp and into dry all the way through. Cinnamon rolls were also amazingly lacking in moisture, and the pound cake suffered the same fate. Only the apple pastries had kept any appreciable tenderness.
The linen tablecloths and cloth napkins are appreciated, and so are the silver coffee pots. Service, while pleasant, was, early on, a tad too leisurely. After the gentleman at the front seated me, no one came by for more than five minutes, and then it was just with water. The coffee is good and the cream is real, but there was never an offer of juice, which is included with the buffet.
100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton
Breakfast (menu and buffet) daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good